by Roopinder Tara, Tenlinks.com
Following Autodesk is like chasing a jack rabbit. You think it will hop one way but it hops the other.
I have watched Autodesk for about 15 years. I’ve written much about them, their products. I live in its shadow; my neighbors are Autodeskers. All that, I still can’t predict their moves.
Never has this been more obvious than when Trimble came out of nowhere to buy SketchUp from Google. CAD insiders had known SketchUp was on the blocks. We speculated over and came up with the usual suspects. Not one predicted Trimble.
Why did Autodesk not outbid everyone? I would have thought they’d do whatever it took to acquire SketchUp. Autodesk has been actively chasing the maker/inventor/hobbyist market, such as it is. The AEC community may not have jumped on SketchUp to create the built world, but the DIYers sure jumped on it to make whatever whirligig, gizmos, low-riders, furniture, or whatever crazy contraption that was in their head.
It was easy. It was free. It spread like wildfire, reaching and saturating an unintended but huge audience. I attended a Maker Faire south of San Francisco and was amazed at the almost universal adoption of SketchUp. Autodesk noticed, too, and they were not about to let this go unanswered. With great fanfare they came out with 123D. They were chasing the same audience, but devised a new product to do so. And so spent millions.
123D is free, like SketchUp. But it takes more to convert users than throwing around free software. Think children from their mothers. SketchUp already had its faithful adherents. Lots and lots of them. This was clearly evident in its 3D Warehouse, a vast library of models, produced over the years -- all available for free.
One time, I had to make a factory layout. Let’s see, should I make each machine in 123D, even if was free and easy to use (supposedly)? Or should I download models from the SketchUp library? I found Bridgeports, lathes, drill presses, tables, even a water jet cutter in the SketchUp library. In less than one hour, I had a reasonable attempt at a factory layout. In fact, every tool and machine I needed was there.
How deep was this library? Out of curiosity, I looked for Adirondack chairs. There were dozens of Adirondack chair designs. Thousands of people had been at this for years. SketchUp had – without trying – gained an incredible head start into a market that Autodesk was drooling for publicly.
So, if I were Autodesk, I would wonder: do I spend millions on developing and marketing -- and years to try to lure customers away from a product they willingly chose, invested time to learn, may be even love? Spend more millions on a Website [www.instructables.com] that purportedly has the demographics of makers/DIYers, and end up with picklers and cupcake makers?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to just buy the product everyone is already using? Don’t ask me. I can never get it right.
[Reprinted with permission from CAD Insider.]